So, when you’re thinking of changing consciousness, avoid the psychedelic drugs because they pitch you into a condition where you don’t know where or what you are. You may strike beautiful scenes (some do, we know). These are the least destructive drug experiences. Nevertheless they are not good for this reason: you may see this lovely scene in your consciousness, but the drug also affects the chemical rhythms in your physical body. And upon those rhythms depend how closely you are in touch with the physical plane, how much you can control your body . . .
From W.E. Butler in Lords of Light: The Path of Initiation in the Western Mysteries
Occultists place a lot of stock in the ability to change consciousness. In fact, the late Dion Fortune actually defined magic as the ability to change consciousness at will. Every magical practitioner, no matter their style, understands that the ability to change consciousness readily is a prerequisite for magical work and each style of magic has its “trademark” ways of bring about changes in the level at which the mind functions. When people who are not students of the esoteric begin to look at magic and perhaps even view it as a partial explanation for some paranormal events, they will invariably come across this concept and begin to wonder: what would happen if I really opened out my consciousness?
This thought on the part of the erstwhile investigator is often followed by the idea for a quick solution: well, such and such tribe in deepest darkest equatorial Pongo Pongo has “shaman” who open their consciousness by partaking of the root of Kirawaka tree, a hallucinogen that is said to open consciousness and give the “shaman” access to other worlds. Why could I not try that?
I would answer that question with a series of questions of my own:
1) Are you willing to go to prison? Given the drug phobia in the U.S., it is very likely that this hypothetical hallucinogen is illegal.
2) Are you a native of Pongo Pongo? If you were, you would likely know that the use of this hallucinogen is not something that a native would do on his own but only under the guidance of one of his or her own medicine people – an individual who has undergone extensive training in the use of the drug and who is, in fact, able to join the traveller in the Otherworld and guide them.
3) If you are willing to take your chances and use this substance outside its cultural milieu or if you think a dose of LSD will do it for you, are you willing to open doors in your consciousness that you may not be able to shut. Occultists talk a good bit about the Guardian at the Threshold. Even if you avoid this traumatic confrontation with your dark side (so to speak), there are still plenty of other areas of your mind or of the Otherworld that you might not really want to go trolling in. If you choose the drug route, you have no control of where you end up.
4) Finally, while this is a matter of some controversy, it is my feeling, based on having been around people who have done or are doing hallucinogens, that these drugs can cause alterations in the auric field that make is easier for low level (and not so low level) astral parasites to gain a foothold in the person’s aura. Are you willing to take the risk of opening yourself to unwanted incursion from the Other Side, especially if you happen to be sensitive already?
In my view, making the decision to try this method of consciousness opening is a simple cost/benefit analysis and the costs/risks far outweigh the benefits, especially when there are a plethora of perfectly, safe, effective techniques for accomplishing the same effect being taught by any reputable esoteric school. These are not the old days when one had to first find an occult order or group of witches or a local cunning man and then beg to be trained. Now, information on magical arts is freely available in books and even online and, if you have the spine to know, to will, to dare and to keep silent, as the old esoteric schools recommended, such information can carry you far and often, if it is your will, the information will carry you right into a “chance” meeting with a group of people who will train you further.
I am not saying that following an esoteric path is easy. There are a lot of different ways that you can go and it will take you some time to sort out what you want to do. But all of that experience is invaluable and will, in the end, serve you well, if only because you begin to realize the things which do and do not work for you. You also begin to understand as you explore and walk a path or two that the methods that you are learning for opening up your consciousness are measured and, if done with the proper attention and without trying to rush, produce excellent results that you can verify for yourself without any of the side effects and drawbacks of mucking about with drugs.
So, if you really want to see the world as magicians do, if you want your world to be one of wonder and to include things that are not a part of Horatio’s philosophy, if you want to be able to understand the things that go bump in the night, as well as the things that will lift you into exalted states, walk away from the idea of an easy fix using drugs and into an esoteric discipline that works for you.